Electronic pill that can detect gut disease is in line for international award

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Research into an electronic pill that can be swallowed by patients to help in the early detection of gut disease is in line to win an international science award.

Sonopill has been developed by scientists at Heriot-Watt, Glasgow, Dundee and Leeds universities, with funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

The project has now been nominated for a Humanitarian Award as part of the 2019 Global Engineering Impact Awards, sponsored by multi-national company National Instruments, with the winner due to be announced at a ceremony in Austin, Texas, in May. The awards celebrate the most innovative and impactful engineering projects from around the world.

The Sonopill programme, which was led by Professor Sandy Cochran of the University of Glasgow, competed with 140 entries from over 25 countries.

The researchers say the swallowable electronic pill will allow doctors to image below the gut wall using ultrasound, which is not possible with current technology. This will allow the detection of diseases such as colorectal cancer earlier than with current clinical methods.

Professor Cochran said: “It’s a really great honour to be selected as a global finalist in the Humanitarian category of these prestigious awards. This reflects the outstanding work done by the EPSRC Sonopill Programme team.

“With significant help from National Instruments as a programme partner, we achieved all the technical goals we set ourselves, including in in vivo imaging, and are now forging ahead with further work to realise first-in-human testing in due course.”

Professor Marc Desmulliez, who led the Heriot-Watt group working on the technology, said: “I am delighted that Sonopill was recognised by engineering professionals as being significant in terms of engineering impact.

“We are looking forward to attending the competition in the USA and will pursue further funding to bring this work closer to clinical trials.”

Last year Professors Cochran and Desmulliez, working with Dr Gerard Cummins, Dr Holly Lay and David Lines, won the EMEIA Engineering Impact Awards in the Innovative Research category for Sonopill.

The awards celebrate the most innovative projects across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and India. Each year, over 200 engineers, scientists, researchers and educators from around the globe submit their most impactful and technically challenging systems created by National Instruments software and hardware.

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